New study forecasts Middle East mobile gaming industry to reach USD 4.4 billion by 2022

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The mobile gaming industry of the Middle East region is predicted to continue its upward trajectory- with experts forecasting threefold growth in 2021. Based on a report prepared by the Orient Planet Research (OPR), the market research unit of Orient Planet Group, and Galal & Karawi Management Consulting (G&K Consulting), the Middle East region’s mobile gaming segment is expected to reach a projected value of USD 4.4 billion by 2022, which is more than triple in growth from the USD 1.06 billion posted in 2016.  

The report further states that the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, followed by preventive and precautionary measures to stay at home, has led to people turning to mobile games as a form of entertainment to while away their time at home. This resulted to the mobile gaming in the region to grow by 25% in 2020. 

Global trends

The region’s performance follows global trends where more people had engaged in gaming last year, buoyed by COVID-19-related restrictions that had forced many to stay indoors. The OPR report found that gaming across the world increased by 46% increase in daily active users in 2020, particularly in HD gaming— or those using PC, macOS, and other desktop platforms— and 17% growth in mobile gaming, or those using iOS, Android, and other smartphone devices.

This is based on reports of leading global gaming software firms based in the United States, which observed the changes in gaming behavior among users. Based on trends, gaming usually experiences spikes of activity on the weekend then tapers off during the work week during the pre-pandemic era. However, after the stay-at-home order, it was observed that weekend and weekday differences in gaming behavior narrowed by 63%. 

Furthermore, mobile gamers were seen installing more apps, with a record surge of 84% during the pandemic. In terms of advertising, mobile gaming ad impressions rose by 57% and revenues soared by 59%. 

Regional mobile gaming share

Industry experts say that the Middle East represents a large market for mobile gaming- representing 23% of the total global gaming segment. It is projected the region’s mobile gaming segment will own up to 1.5% of the global gaming market revenue in the next five years. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is ranked in the 19th spot in terms of gaming revenue, posting USD 837 million. The KSA is predicted to achieve more growth at an expected Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 22.5% in the next five years. Meanwhile, the UAE currently holds the 35th spot in terms of gaming revenue in 2020. 

Nidal Abou Zaki, Managing Director, Orient Planet Group, said: “These are exciting times for the Middle East region’s mobile gaming industry. Over the last few months, we have seen how popular and entertaining these games have been- offering temporary relief to people trying to fight boredom while following the orders to stay at home to avoid the virus. The preference towards these games have resulted in the industry’s 25% growth- with people not only turning to these games for entertainment but also to connect socially with other people.”

Abou Zaki added, “We would expect more growth for this segment as the current situation that the world is facing is only increasing its importance. In fact, the mobile gaming industry for the region is expected to triple in size in the next two years.”

Meanwhile, Asem Galal, General Manager, G&K Consulting, pointed out that the best is yet to come. “We are looking at a multi-billion industry with a highly enthusiastic audience- which is a winning formula for more growth and development. Revenues generated from these mobile games alone are pegged to be higher in value than other forms of online entertainment such as 

worldwide box offices, music streaming and album sales. What makes this more exciting is that the Middle East region is at the center of this rapidly thriving industry.”

The report estimates that the Middle East region engages more 100 million players – a number that conveniently grew early last year because of the order to stay at home and limited outside movement. The projected number of users reinforces the notion that the region alone, already makes up around 23% of the global gaming market.

The Middle East region is widely recognized as the fastest growing online gaming population in the world, holding 25% of the gaming audience. It is followed by Latin America 13.9%, Asia Pacific 9.2%, Western Europe 4.8% and North America 4%.